Archive for Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Making the grade

Approved bond issue would add sixth graders to middle school mix

January 21, 2003

Much of the discussion concerning the bond issue proposal in the Basehor-Linwood School District centers on cost and how the $30 million proposal might affect taxpayers.

During the campaign, words such as mill levy, tax burden and economy are used as common as words like new classrooms, students and education.

But perhaps ignored throughout much of the campaign is a central issue, which according to research, would enhance the education and development of students at the elementary and middle school level, school officials said.

Should voters approve the bond issue Jan. 21, Linwood, Glenwood Ridge and Basehor elementary schools would undergo renovation and a new middle school would be built.

But the building renovations would not be the only changes. The grade configuration at the new middle school would also change.

A new middle school would house sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

The sixth through eighth grade configuration was reviewed and determined by a board of district teachers and administrators to be "the most prevalent and responsive middle school," said Mike Boyd, Basehor-Linwood Middle School principal.

"Basically the benefit is the curriculum becomes more integrated," Boyd said.

"(The new configuration) is loved by the staff, better for students needs and offers more stability in transition for development," he added.

It's also the configuration most commonly used by schools throughout the country.

According to figures:

  • From 1971 to 2000, the number of traditional middle schools -- typically seventh and eighth grades -- decreased from 2,450 to 2,390, a 2 percent dip.
  • By contrast, middle schools using the sixth through eighth configuration increased from 1,662 to 8,371, a 404 percent increase.

The new configuration would also add a layer of development for incoming sixth graders, school officials said.

"It offers a year of stability we don't have now," Boyd said. "When you come in as a seventh grader, you're just getting used to the surroundings. When they become eighth graders, they're getting ready to go to the high school."

Should the bond issue pass, the new grade configuration wouldn't be put into place for approximately three years, or upon completion of the new school.

Under the school district's plan, sixth graders would have their own wing at the middle school and be slowly integrated with seventh and eighth grade students.

Sixth grade students would alternate between core classes and electives, similar to current middle school students. However, they would not be eligible to participate in sports.

In the place of sports, intramural activities would be offered.

But the new grade configuration would also free up the elementary schools.

Overcrowding problems persist at the three elementary schools now, as is the case at the combination elementary-middle school in Linwood.

At Linwood, the elementary and middle school alternate elective classes between the gymnasium, music room and multi-purpose room.

The lack of space makes scheduling difficult and does not give students enough class time, LES principal Vickie McEnroe said.

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